I am now reading Original Face, thanks to “Marcel Proust” who dropped in last Saturday and lent me his copy. I didn’t go the launching, by the way. I am enjoying it. Marcel emailed me earlier this month with some well-observed reservations about a few points. I may come back to these later. Marcel enjoyed the book too, despite those reservations. There are one or two hints and fragments of Chinese I have known through M, here and there, and of course I have known Nick for fifteen years now.
I began the novel in the waiting room at the gastroenterologist’s today.
And now I have finished. I may talk more about Marcel’s critique at another time, but I really did enjoy the book — as did Marcel — and recognised more than one phrase or incident… The denouement, if you like, takes place in that very Golden Harbour Restaurant where Lord Malcolm and I had yum cha yesterday. As I said, it is quite a while since I was last there, but it was with M and Nick and quite a few others. I was amused to note that Nick and Claire actually appear, Hitchcock-like, in the crowd in that second-last chapter.
1. A taxi driver is asked by his owner to work a consecutive night shift because the night driver has not turned up. He says (in effect) “OK, but I’ll have to start an hour later because I have to have dinner first.” This is ridiculous. The owner doesn’t care when the driver starts. The negotiation would simply have been over a reduction in the amount of the “pay in”.
2. Police trace a taxi driver by consulting records held by the owner. This is impossible. No such records are kept. If it was a radio hiring, there would be a record with the radio network, but the taxi in question was simply hailed on the street.
3. A character is “declared a friendly witness” in an inquest. This is also not possible. Witnesses are never “declared friendly.” In some instances they are “declared hostile.” That is, when a party who has put the witness forward discovers that the witness is no longer co-operating, the party can have the witness declared “hostile” and be permitted to cross examine the witness and, in particular, put to the witness the previous story that the witness had given which had caused the party to call the witness. However, witnesses at an inquest are not witnesses for any party as the proceedings are “inquisitorial” (that is, all witnesses are called to assist the coroner in his or her inquiry which is not to determine one or the other version of events in adversarial proceedings but to determine the cause of death) and witnesses are neither friendly nor hostile.
4. A character is a witness in a trial. That character, in turn, has “character witnesses.” Only the accused could have a “character witness.”
5. Somebody jumps off the Anzac Bridge. Drivers on the bridge watch him fall to the water. I checked this this morning. If you are in a car in the bridge, you cannot see over the edge of the bridge.
Marcel is a barrister and, I now discover, a former taxi driver.
Even so, Nick Jose has written quite a page-turner. He remains too one of the best interpreters in Australia of China and Chinese thinking. Chinese have accused him of/praised him for having a “Chinese mind”.